How to develop strategic corporate business agility by applying Disciplined Agile, Part 2.
Agile Beyond Scrum
Technological business trends tend to create their own wave of pressure and let FOMO, the fear of missing out emerge. By using this “agile” was soon fashionably industrially commoditized by global consulting corporations and it's marketing capacities.
This can be described as “Agile In Name Only”, as Martin Fowler put it. Basic concepts were substantially undermined and formally utilized. So called “lipstick agile” fails to establish the true value of agile in a sustainable way. “Agile productivity tools” were deployed to force people to become agile by submitting to uniform software packages.
Meanwhile Scrum gained in popularity though scaling is beyond it's own scope and being obliged to the daily grind of standup meetings and retrospective's against it's purpose pulls team members down and can steal time without necessity.
(The other day a programmer told me, that s*he is not allowed to process insights and learnings during a sprint, because this could probably change the aspired sprint goal and solve more goals than planned! Instead the team got used to fake security issues to get the allowance to play out their competeny! This is not agile, this is evil Taylorism in agile disguise.)
What is needed from a corporate view is a method to align or even transform (another buzzword) the whole organization with a sustainable agile strategy while retaining the undeniable benefits of Scrum and other agile methods.
The mentioned “human side of enterprise” asks to adjust our organizations to the specific context, people and tasks at hand. If we pick up seriously the idea of Scrum, to work on empirical reality, we have to respect expectations and ambitions of all humans involved. And we get ideally a method to align this potential with organizational goals in a strategic way.
Let us now have a closer look at Disciplined Agile, and how it can be of support to solve the challenges at hand!
What are Disciplined Agile and Disciplined Agile Delivery?
Disciplined Agile Delivery and Disciplined Agile is a hybrid approach to extend Scrum with proven strategies from Agile Modeling (AM), Extreme Programming (XP), Unified Process (UP), Kanban, Lean Software Development, Outside In Development (OID) and several other methods including traditional concepts like waterfall.
Who has developed DA and who is the supporting organization?
The Disciplined Agile Framework was initially developed by Scott Ambler and Mark Lines at IBM Rational from early 2009 to June 2012. Their goal was to provide an overarching concept to connect project initiation with final delivery using agile methods like Scrum, XP (Extreme Programming) and Kanban.
In subsequent releases they enhanced the scope, added a method box labeled solely “Disciplined Agile” and introduced the idea of a Disciplined Agile Enterprise (DAE).
Meanwhile Disciplined Agile is a thoughtful school of thought and of solutions how to apply and utilize the agile values in organizations.
What does DA offer?
Discipline Agile (“DA”) is a hybrid meta-framework to make organizations agile.
“Meta-framework” refers to the options to include well known and established methods and frameworks like Scrum (sic!), Lean, Kanban, et cetera as well as waterfall, exploratory and program management concepts.
Disciplined Agile Delivery proves that DA is not restricted to project management and and product management but refers to the option to establish delivery processes and other ways of collaboration as well, including DevOps- and Cybersecurity-processes.
That said DA is not in contradiction with any method mentioned – on the contrary: You can use DA to establish the method you want, including Scrum without it's restrictions.
How does this work?
What well known restrictions of Scrum does DA address?
As already pointed out in part 1 Scrum has inherent restrictions, e.g.:
- was designed with single teams in mind;
- enforces you to follow certain procedures (timeboxing, standup-meetings, fixed role set, et cetera);
- focus on customer communication with regard to products and their surface (what can be shown at each sprint), and does not explicitly take care of architectural demands;
- has “retrospectives” without any explicit method to give feedback and to govern project outcomes and performance;
- relies on the Scrum master to manage collaboration and to offer continous improvement processes
- counts on self organization but leaves the team alone how to integrate it's outcome with the organizational requirements and quality standards.
As advancement Disciplined Agile:
- is designed with whole organizations in mind and let you initially embed each project in the organizational context;
- ensures from the begin that the whole team can be strong in full alignment with the requirements and quality standards of the organization;
- let you and your team choose the way it want to work (through using Scrum, Lean, Kanban, Waterfall, Exploratory, Program) and offers delivery methods as well;
- let you designate a specific solution architect;
- offers methods to govern a project both strictly and easy (“light governance”);
- has built in guided continous improvement processes.
And how can these advantages of Disciplined Agile be utilized?
Instead of elaborating and prescribing detailed instructions DA introduces 7 key principles which help as guidelines and aids to apply agile successfully. The seven principles are:
- Be awesome
- Context counts
- Choice is good
- Optimize flow
- Enterprise awareness
- Delight customers
As you can see all these principles help to embrace challenges with dedication (e.g. be awesome, pragmatism, context counts, choice is good) and to apply the framework successfully to the benefit of an organization (optimize flow, enterprise awareness) and, first of all, it's customers (delight customers).
Way of work
Instead of prescribing each team and team member what s*he has to do or what is expected, DA encourages you to choose your way of work. This directly results from the principle “choice is good”.
This means to select the appropriate method and lifecycle for the requirements and the tasks at hand.
DA also takes care of diversity, remote work and of contemporary communication options in the 21st century. It encourages the team to establish and choose the appropriate ways how to collaborate.
Generic lifecycle phases
This sounds promising, but how can the great variety of options and specific team setups be governed and managed?
DA overlays a generic three step approach on each method utilized:
Inception is of special interest here, because it aims to synchronize the specific project details on the organizational context. This makes sure that the expected outcome will be in full alignment with organizational constraints and demands.
DA also provides a set of visual aids to support project and process management.
So called goal diagrams help to easy elaborate, communicate and report goals and associated tasks.
Product readiness assessment visuals how to finally make the product ready for deployment.
Being a fully qualified GRC-professional I often become desperate when I notice ambitious (startup) projects crash finally because they did not take into account contextual requirements.
With DA this kind of predictable sunk costs can easily be avoided:
- The inception phase takes care of the optimal embedment into the organizational context in advance.
- DA offers besides well known traditional audits also a concept named “light governance”.
This idea enables you to track activities with a mixture of giving feedback on a individual level and making sure that organizational contexts and requirements are fulfilled appropriately. By doing so the aspired value creation is ensured in the organizational context.
- DA, finally, also offers options to verify the product readiness through taking into account both internal development aspects and customer related requirements.
If you have ever struggled with making Scrum fun and productive for multiple teams, in remote settings or with regard to startup, lab or delivery contexts and in organizations in general, Disciplined Agile is the temporary solution to put wood behind the agile arrow.
Schulz, Christopher (2018): Scrum endlich diszipliniert? – das Disciplined Agile Delivery Framework im Überblick - german
Ambler, Scott / Lines, Mark (2016): The Disciplined Agile Process Decision Framework
Gorans, Paul / Kruchten, Philipp (2014): A Guide to Critical Success Factors in Agile Delivery
Ambler, Scott (2013: Going Beyond Scrum: Disciplined Agile Delivery
Ambler, Scott / Lines, Mark (2012): Disciplined Agile Delivery: A Practitioners Guide to Agile Software Development in the Enterprise. IBM Press.